The Titans have confirmed the signing of 14 un-drafted free agents, and former Indiana wide receiver Nick Westbrook is among them. A 6-foot-3 smart and savvy receiver, Westbrook had 42 catches for 572 yards and five touchdowns in 2019.
Westbrook recently spoke with MCM about his time at Indiana, how he formed a relationship with the Titans throughout the pre-draft process, and which of his new teammates he’s already been working out with.
JM: As you embark on this new journey, how do you look back on your time at Indiana?
NW: I feel very appreciative and blessed when I think about my time at Indiana. I had so many great experiences. I don’t think I would change anything about my time there. If I could go back in time, I would make the exact same decision. It’s a great program. I didn’t create the amount of change within the program that I wanted to, but I feel like I got the ball rolling. My senior class, we all came in together and I think we left the program in better shape than we found it in. We started to change the culture for the better.
JM: I love that. What was draft weekend like for you?
NW: It was exciting. It was a mixture of excitement, anxiousness and nerves (laughs). Overall, it was a good time. I enjoyed the experience with my parents and my girlfriend. We basically spent that entire weekend together. We didn’t pay too much attention to the draft until Day 3. We knew I had a chance to go on Day 3, and there was no point in extending the amount of time I’d be nervous by watching those first two days. It felt like a culmination of so many years of hard work and support from everybody that I spent that weekend with. It goes all the way back to when I first started playing Pop Warner. It’s crazy how it all came together.
JM: That’s awesome. How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?
NW: I had some contact with them. I first met one of their area scouts Casey Callahan at the Shrine Game. We had a good talk there. From there, the Titans stayed in contact with my agent throughout the process. I was then able to speak with [wide receivers] coach Rob Moore about two weeks before the draft. We were able to build some rapport. We got to know each other pretty well. That played a big role in why I choose Tennessee. I really enjoyed my talk with coach Moore. I appreciated what he had to say about me. I saw an opportunity in front of me.
JM: Just to clarify, your discussions with the Titans prior to the draft occurred with area scout Callahan and wide receivers coach Moore?
NW: That’s correct. It was the two of them.
Indiana's Nick Westbrook produced on deep targets last season with a 123.1 passer rating on 20+ yard targets. pic.twitter.com/oQvNBN9LX5— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 4, 2019
JM: That’s great. You mentioned building a rapport with coach Moore, but I want to get more detail as to why you choose Tennessee. I imagine you spoke with other teams throughout the process and built some relationships with them as well. What about Tennessee stuck out to you?
NW: With Tennessee, the big thing was I just felt like I had a great connection with them, especially with coach Moore. Even though it was just one phone call, I got the impression that he could really help me grow as a player. On top of that, I realized that I had a chance to join an organization that’s on the rise right now. They’re fresh off an AFC Championship Game appearance. They’ve done a great job turning things around as of late. On top of that, I really like their offense. Watching and studying their passing game, I understood and identified how similar it is to what I did at Indiana. I feel comfortable with the offense. As I continue to learn it, I feel good about implementing it and becoming a part of it. I believe I can carve out a role here.
They’re going to give me an opportunity to compete for a spot. I feel like I have a great opportunity here. I think there’s a chance for me to come in and earn a spot at the receiver position for them. I’m gonna do everything I can to show them the value I can bring to the table.
JM: I love hearing about how you see the opportunity here. What’s your favorite part about playing the wide receiver position?
NW: I feel like it’s one of the only positions where there’s obviously some glamour to it, a chance to make the highlight reel with a spectacular catch and what not. There’s a lot more to it though, and that’s why I was drawn to it. It’s an art form. You can be artistic and creative with it. You need to have great releases and make great catches, but you also have to be willing to get down and dirty in the blocking game. I love the versatility. It’s the biggest thing for me. Everybody thinks that a wide receiver is just a pass catcher, but there’s so much more that goes into it. There’s a lot of details that you have to be aware of if you want to become a great receiver.
Indiana WR Nick Westbrook made his routes count last year. pic.twitter.com/U5oY6cMAOk— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 3, 2017
JM: You did a lot of the dirty work at Indiana. Do you have a favorite route to run?
NW: I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite. I enjoy running a deep-post. I’ve been running that ever since Pop Warner. I ran it a lot in high school as well. It’s always been a fun route for me. It usually results in a really big play, and for me, it often resulted in a touchdown. I’m not picky when it comes to route running though. I like running every route there is. You have to have a positive mindset when it comes to running routes. You can’t just focus on one or two routes that you enjoy. I never took pride in just one route. That’s how you become a one-trick pony and defensive backs are too smart and too good for that.
JM: I love that answer. Playing at Indiana afforded you the opportunity to play against some of the best competition college football has to offer. Who were some of the best defensive backs that you came across?
NW: Playing in the Big Ten, specifically the Big Ten East, you’re going up against some of the best teams in the nation on a weekly basis. We played against some of the best defenses in the country. I remember going up against Marshon Lattimore during my sophomore year. I was a sophomore and he was a senior (laughs). That was a tough match-up for me. I wasn’t physically developed yet. Heck, I wasn’t developed as a receiver yet. Going up against him was a humbling experience. It taught me a lot. It really put into perspective how much room I still had to learn and grow.
I recall going up against Jeffrey Okudah as well. He’s a great cornerback. They had Damon Arnette on the other side and I squared off with him a few times as well. I believe it was my junior year that I went up against both of those guys. We had some great battles. I’m so thankful that I choose to attend a Big Ten school, especially The Big Ten East. It prepared me to go up against competition like that.
JM: Those are three elite cornerbacks right there. Things have been happening virtually right now due to Covid-19. I’m curious if there’s one teammate of yours that you’re excited to meet in person?
NW: I’ve been working out with a few of my teammates. With the whole quarantine thing going on, I was able to run some routes with A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond and Cody Hollister just to name a few. Most of us receivers have found a way to get together and run some routes. Honestly, I’m looking forward to spending more time with every single one of them. They have so much to teach me and I have so much to learn. Every single one of those guys has been in the league longer than I have. It doesn’t matter if it’s only been a year or multiple years. They all have more knowledge than I do. I’m just going to focus on being a sponge and absorb as much as I can. I’m going to learn from them and apply what I can to my own game.
JM: That’s great to hear. The Titans recently ended their virtual off-season program. This is obviously the first time you’ve gone through something like that. What was it like for you?
NW: I feel like the only way I can view it is to be optimistic about it. Of course it would have been great to be in person and run the routes and do a walk-through as we’re learning the plays. One thing that was great about it was that we were really able to take a deep dive into the details. We got to really focus on the plays and why we’re running certain routes. We got to really focus on the understanding side of things. It was all about the details and nuances of each play, especially within the run game. That’s how I learn best. I love to know the “why” behind everything. I’ll know exactly what to do because I know why I’m doing it. That’s probably the biggest thing. We were able to get really involved with the details.
JM: That’s definitely a bright spot. I’ve really enjoyed your time today, Nick. In closing, what are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months?
NW: I’ve started to write some things down as we inch closer to training camp. I want to make sure that I’m in the best physical shape possible. I want to be able to run for days. I sort of know what’s going to be asked of us. I need to be able to run non-stop going into training camp. As I take on a special teams role and a role on the offense, whatever they need me to do really, I need to be able to run and do it forever. I’m keeping my body healthy during this time. I’ll be 100% going into camp. I’m going to grow as a receiver. The end goal is obviously to make the 55-man roster, and all of that is going to help me achieve my goal. However I can do that, that’s my main goal. I want to make this team and stay on it.